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August 30, 2010

Yellow Jerseys Not Too Concerning

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Throughout any preseason football camp, players get hurt. It's a rough game, you know?

South Carolina was no exception this year. But even though sometimes it seemed as if the Gamecocks were changing their school colors from garnet and black to the yellow of a non-contact practice jersey, the picture could be a lot more bleak just three days before the season-opener.

While the Gamecocks had a mass of players in yellow for Sunday's practice, only three are considered starters. Two of them say they'll be fine for Thursday, leaving only one in question.

Linebacker Shaq Wilson has missed all but one and a half practices during camp with a hamstring pull that won't go away. Hamstrings are a difficult injury to gauge anyway, with rest and staying off the feet being the only sure cure, but the amount of time it takes to get to full health is never pinpointed.

According to his coaches, Wilson aggravates the pull every time he tries to go full-speed. While defensive head Ellis Johnson is giving Wilson every chance to play despite not practicing, it's getting close to decision time about whether or not Wilson will be on the field on Thursday.

"He might be able to play a few plays, I don't know," coach Steve Spurrier recently said. "If he's not 100 percent, we won't play him."

Johnson previously said that he would play Wilson if Wilson could practice for three days before the opener. He did not practice on Sunday; the Gamecocks are scheduled to practice Monday and Tuesday before having a walk-through on Wednesday.

Wilson has certainly earned the right to play despite not practicing, being the quarterback of a defense loaded with stars and leading USC with 85 tackles last year. Furthermore, he has insisted that he's all right, that he's fine, holding him out is just a precaution.

But Johnson knows that playing on a pulled hammy will probably only make it worse, and if the walk-through isn't considered a practice, then there is already no chance Wilson can make the said three days of sessions before the game. If Wilson shows up in a yellow jersey on Monday, it may be time to go ahead and tell Quin Smith or Tony Straughter that one of them is starting against Southern Miss.

It will be rough to go into a game missing a starting linebacker, especially considering the other starting linebacker (Rodney Paulk) is coming off two straight seasons where knee injuries prematurely ended them and there is no Eric Norwood to lean on. The Gamecocks, though, are feeling good about their chances with two others who have spent time in yellow.

Fullback/tight end Patrick DiMarco has been wearing yellow since Aug. 11 after he sustained a hairline fracture in his left forearm during a scrimmage. DiMarco has been practicing in full pads, just without all of the normal contact, with his arm heavily wrapped up and says he'll be fine for Thursday.

"Oh yeah, I'm fine," DiMarco said on his way out of practice on Sunday. "I have a pad on it and it's healing quickly. I'm good to go."

DiMarco will play with a cushion on top of the arm, which will hopefully ease the blows on it due to the blocking and leading that is necessary with his job. Spurrier was confident that DiMarco would be fine.

Right guard Terrence Campbell sustained a high ankle sprain last week but was at practice on Sunday, wearing yellow but without the walking boot that he had been wearing. On the depth chart released on Aug. 27, Campbell was listed as a backup to Rokevious Watkins at right guard, likely as a concern over his ankle. It seems probable to suggest that Campbell, being one of the few experienced linemen on the roster, will challenge Watkins for the starting job if he is healthy.

There are still several yellow jerseys at practice but in the last three sessions alone, six (Jarvis Giles, Dion LeCorn, Watkins, Corey Addison, Cody Gibson and Steven Singleton) that were in yellow have returned to normal jerseys. Only one (receiver DeMario Bennett) has been a new addition to the yellows, and he has a pulled muscle in his leg that should be OK, according to Spurrier.

Never comforting to see so much yellow at practice, but the situation could be much worse. Injuries happen but any lasting ones have largely left the Gamecocks alone this preseason.

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